August 20, 2019
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Cause of fire that killed 5 in Portland still under investigation

PORTLAND, Maine — A fire that broke out in a two unit residence on Noyes Street early Saturday morning left five people dead and a sixth fighting for his life with severe burns.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation on Sunday morning, officials said.

The bodies of the five who were killed were taken to Augusta over the weekend for identification, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said. Those exams were still underway on Sunday, and officials did not release the identities of the victims.

The man fighting for his life was identified late Sunday afternoon as Steven Summers, 29, of Rockland, according to McCausland. He was visiting friends at the house Friday night.

News from the scene on Noyes Street worsened throughout the day on Saturday. Reports of a serious fire and missing people turned to five confirmed dead and one in critical condition late Saturday afternoon. All the other people who had been in the building were safe and accounted for at that time.

Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said seven escaped the building as it went up in flames just after 7 a.m. Some escaped by jumping from the windows on the upper floors of the three-story residence.

Summers, who is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was one of those who had jumped from the second floor. He was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, then to the burn center in Boston.

State police said that none of the victims were University of Southern Maine students, though the residence is near that school’s Portland campus. However, the University of Southern Maine officials said they are waiting for the identities of the victims to be released before they can determine whether they were students.

The building, at 20-24 Noyes St. had two units, one of which was occupied by two USM students, according to USM’s executive director of communications, Chris Quint. One of the USM students was out of town when the fire started and the other was able to get out of the building safely, he said.

Mike Hogan, who lives down the street from the house where the fire occurred, said someone banged on his door just after 7 a.m. Saturday morning trying to alert the neighborhood in case the fire spread. Hogan stepped outside onto the sidewalk, where he said he saw flames shooting out of the building.

He said he’d heard a lot of noise from the house on Friday night.

“I almost called the cops last night and didn’t because it’s Friday night, it’s Halloween and I didn’t want to be that guy,” he said. “Now it’s eating at me, wondering, if I would have called, if it would have made a difference this morning.”

A family support center was set up by the Red Cross at the USM Woodbury Campus Center at 35 Bedford St., though officials warned reporters not to interpret that as confirmation that the victims were USM students.

Quint said that throughout the weekend, family members and friends of the victims stopped by the center.

USM said on its website Saturday afternoon: “We are saddened by the news of a three alarm fire near USM’s Portland Campus.”

“We are working closely with the Portland Police Department, Portland Fire Department, and the American Red Cross to monitor this situation,” the statement continued. It instructed any USM students seeking support to call 207-228-8355.



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